When you start feeling sorry for yourself, here’s a website that has a nice way of changing your perspective. Let’s begin with jolly old England, which wasn’t always so jolly. There have been a lot of rotten jobs throughout the history of Britain, especially in the 10 centuries before 1066.

When the Romans invade in AD 43, they bring with them a civilised way of life, but they also create some truly terrible job vacancies that just have to be filled.



Some 400 years later, when the Romans are becoming a distant memory, Anglo-Saxon England is able to offer a whole new range of miserable ways to make a living. Not a people to be outdone in the misery stakes, the Vikings, too, are no strangers to uncomfortable, dangerous and all-round grim working conditions. This is an era with an abundance of contenders for the title of the worst job in history.



Guillemot Egg Collector



This is definitely not a position for the faint-hearted. Guillemots are seabirds that nest in dense colonies on the tops of sea stacks and on extremely high cliff ledges. Because of their conical shape, guillemot eggs spin on the spot rather than rolling over the edge. Their coating of guano makes them even more secure. These eggs are your quarry.



Collecting guillemot eggs – a common practice in what is popularly known as the ‘Dark Ages’ – involves climbing over the edge of a cliff and making your way down to the precarious ledges where the nests are found. To assist you in this task, you will be provided with a rope fashioned from seal skin and a bucket.



As well as the obvious danger of falling from a great height into a raging sea and being crushed against jagged rocks, you also run a high risk of being attacked by guillemots who quite naturally want to keep their eggs from your clutches. Such bird assaults may result in cuts and bruises or, more seriously, in loss of contact between you and the cliff face.



The rewards of success in this task are not many. However, the protein provided by regularly eating guillemot eggs may make the difference between life and death for you and your family. The position is therefore only open to the desperate.



Roman Gold Miner



This position involves extremely long hours in terribly cramped conditions, in the middle of nowhere, up to 25 metres (82 feet) below ground. Gold is extracted from seams deep beneath the earth’s surface using a tiny iron pick that showers you with razor-sharp splinters that will almost certainly blind you. Fires are regularly set to speed up the gold extraction, and if you’re not burnt or choked by the fire, you may be maimed or killed by the subsequent explosion as water hits the hot rock.



You have to carry huge amounts of mined spoil on your back through low, narrow tunnels to the surface. You may be crushed by falling rocks at any time. Only slaves or prisoners need apply.



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